Monday, February 3, 2014

Mazal Tov To Bad4Shidduchim!

She's finally done it! The author of Bad For Shidduchim is now officially off the market.

Mazal to you and your future chosson!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chanukah Music Videos 5774 - Including NEW MACCABEATS!

Here we are, another year, more music videos!

Check out the past few years' selections at these posts: 5773/2012 and 5772/2011.

New videos will be added to the bottom of the post as I find them. Submit videos for posting in the comments section!

Let's start off with The Maccabeats and "Burn," based on a song by Ellie Goulding.

Of course, this year Thanksgiving coincides with Chanukah, so there are going to be a ton of Thanksgivukkah videos, such as this video by the Buba Myses, a parody of "Scream and Shout," by and Britney Spears.

"Oils" by Big Teeth Productions. A parody of Royals by Lorde.

This song features a female vocalist, but none of the women appearing in the video (or men) seem to be actually singing.

"Thanksgivukkah Pie" by Benjy Lovitt - a parody of "American Pie" and "The Saga Begins"

The BBoys are back again, with "8 Nights" a rap parody of "Tom Ford" by Jay-Z

Mr. Palindrome presents: "I Want A Hippopotamus For Hanukkah"

A new Israeli A Capella group, Kipa Leiv L'Chanukah - Nes Gadol Haya Po.

Six13 returns with "The Thanksgivukkah Anthem." What's with the reference to Roman Cavalry?

A newcomer, Kopshtick presents "Chanuka Rock!"


The Houston Rockets attempt to sing "I had a little Dreidel" for the second time (here's the first)


Edon singing an original song called "8 Days."

Shir Soul is back with a parody of One Republic's "Counting Stars" called "Timeless as the Stars."

I may be biased because I like the original as well - but this is my vote for best Chanukah song this year - sorry Maccabeats!

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Maccabeats Video! D'ror Yikra - Cups.

Finally, a new Maccabeats video featuring the Shabbos song D'ror Yikra to the tune from "Cups."


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happiness Is An Avodah

I heard this idea presented in shul tonight.

We all want to be happy. Most people strive to achieve happiness, but stumble and struggle, and are even discouraged that they may ever be truly happy.

Image Source:
Often enough, however, we tend to think that the source of our happiness comes from some external source. If only we had X, Y, or Z - then we'd really be happy. But, because we don't have those things right now, we aren't happy, and we believe that we can't be happy without them.

Rav Yaakov Weinberg Z'tl said that this is a harmful train of thought. By declaring that you can't be happy because you don't currently have X, Y, or Z - you are deciding for yourself not to be happy. Happiness shouldn't be dependent on something external to us. Rather, it is self-generated from within our own minds and souls.

Rav Weinberg elaborated on this theme, saying that this is one of the reasons why Sukkos, known as Zman Simchaseinu - the Time of our Happiness - follows Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a rather somber and serious period of time. First, we recognize HaShem is our King, and then we plead for our lives from the Ultimate Judge - which doesn't leave a lot of room to focus on happiness.

However this process of going through the Yomim Nora'im is meant to help us recognize a thought pattern that we should ingrain into our daily lives. What brings us true happiness should be the realization that HaShem is indeed, our King, and we are His servants. By doing His requested acts of service, namely the Mitzvos, we will be productive and rewarded, and our internal happiness will stem from our spiritual connection and relationship with HaShem.

Happiness is part of our Avodah of HaShem. It takes hard work, like any Avodah, but we will be better off because of it.


While thinking about this idea, my mind started making other connections and expansions on the concept.

I know I myself have often focused on external things that I believed, once I attained them, would bring me happiness, but in reality, happiness needs to be self-generated. Whatever stage we are in life - single, dating, engaged, married, parents, grandparents - there is always bound to be something not quite perfect, something lacking in what we expected to have at this stage.

The most stereotypical example is someone engaged and soon-to-be married.

He or she often believes that as soon as they leave the chuppah for the yichud room, everything will be glorious, full of rainbows and sunshine. The truth of the matter is, marriage isn't a happily ever after - it's really hard and requires a lot of work. It can, and will be difficult at times - and couples will struggle with one issue or another.

Nevertheless, everyone still has some positive thing(s) in their life that they have been given as blessings from HaShem. Recognizing them, expressing gratitude for them, and enjoying them - will produce happiness.

If I recall correctly, Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz wrote in one of his books (I think The Thinking Jewish Teenager's Guide to Life) that happiness is never an end goal, a destination to be reached or a stage to achieve, rather it is the journey in life itself.

So no matter what troubles are thrown at you in this often crazy world we live in, there is still something we can all recognize and latch onto that will help us create that self-generated state of happiness.

Of all the things I've learned while married, I must say that this is one of the most important: having Simchas HaChaim. Without it, life can get quite dreary and dreadful.

So let us all strive to elevate our minds, bodies and souls with the simcha of the forthcoming chag of Sukkos, and by internalizing Rav Weinberg's ideas, let us choose to be happy, and hopefully we can carry that simcha with us throughout the rest of the year.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Teshuva: Make One Small Change

I heard this idea presented tonight before Ma'ariv.

The speaker (one of the members of the local kollel) mentioned that his brother-in-law had an idea for a business. Since everyone knows that the air of Israel makes a person wise (Bava Basra 158B), he wanted to sell bottles of Israeli air to tourists. Whenever they needed a burst of smartness, such as the night before a test, they'd open the bottle and breathe in the inspirational air.

Of course, this wouldn't really work as a practical financial venture, but it does work with regard to doing teshuva.

The Ba'alei Mussar write that an effective way to do teshuva is to make one small, consistent change to one's life. The speaker quoted his rebbe in Israel as commenting that the best time to take this small change upon oneself is to do it during Ne'ilah, when you really feel the power and awe of HaShem's kingship and the overall spiritual rush of the conclusion of Yom Kippur. By doing this, you are effectively capturing that moment of spiritual elevation and inspiration in your own small bottle.

Every time you perform this small change - every day - it's as though you will be sampling some of the power you captured from that moment of acceptance during Ne'ilah. Each day, you will, to a small degree, re-experience that feeling of spiritual fortitude and inspiration. By doing this small thing every day, you create a link that strings together all the days of the coming year that leads back to that awe-inspiring moment of Ne'ilah.

And that is how you can create an effective change that will have a lasting impact - from this Ne'ilah to the next.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Rosh Hashana 5774 / 2014 Music Video Round Up

With Rosh Hashana a few days away, it's time for the annual Rosh Hashana music video round up!

Here's Six13 with their Rosh Hashana Jam. is back with another hip-hop dance-filled video, based off of Daft Punk, called "Get Clarity."

Is that Edon?

Shlomo Katz has a preview song called "Vayeda Kol Paul" from his upcoming album, to be released in October.

"Forgive Me," a humorous video by Jewish Comedian Yisrael Campbell.

My question is: Where are the Maccabeats? It seems like there are fewer videos this year... perhaps the Jewish music parody craze the Maccabeats began with "Candlelight" has come and gone?

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Yetzer Hara Wants You To Succeed!

I heard a fascinating idea tonight, presented in the name of Rabbi Berkowitz (I think from Ner Yisrael).

Why is it that we spend so much time during the month of Elul and in shul during Rosh Hashana focusing on the concept of HaShem being The King?

Part of this is because we tend to give some degree of authority to the Yetzer Hara in tempting us to do things that are against the will of HaShem. We recognize his power, and by doing so, we negate our own full personal acceptance of HaShem's Kingship.

What we don't realize is that the Yetzer Hara, being an agent of HaShem, truly wants us to succeed in serving HaShem - and not listening to wayward persuasions.

Any time we are presented with situation that challenges us, we often hear two distinct voices in our heads. For example, a man has decided to wake up early to go to shul and learn before minyan starts. When his alarm goes off, one voice encourages him to jump up and successfully carry out his plan, thus increasing his time for Torah study. However, another voice (the Yetzer Hara) says that he should hit the snooze button, especially since if he sleeps a bit more, he'll be more rested and can even have more concentration when he davens.

The challenge here is to overcome the seemingly beneficial advice the Yetzer Hara is giving us - and that's his true goal.

Just as a coach for a particular sport will challenge his players to overcome new difficulties and reach new heights in performance at every practice, so too the Yetzer Hara sets new and ever more difficult challenges before us as we grow.

On a surface level, the coach may look like he's just making life miserable for his players, but in reality we can understand that he is encouraging them to surpass the hurdles he has created, and by doing so, they will become better athletes.

So too with the Yetzer Hara. By confronting us, ESPECIALLY in our areas of weakness where we need the most reinforcement, the Yetzer Hara is doing his job to get us to recognize where we need improvement and to surmount the difficulties we encounter.

By focusing on this idea, we can put the Yetzer Hara in his place and no longer have our misplaced belief in him detract from our faith in HaShem's Kingship. Then we will truly be able to crown HaShem as our King without any reservations and with a fully heart.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Requirements For Marriage: Simchas HaChaim

I've been musing about the nature of marriage and what it takes to be successful in this often-stressful, yet rewarding endeavor. We're told from the time we are children that marriage will lead to the fabled "happily ever after" among other fantastical things, but I don't think enough people out there paint a realistic picture of how difficult and challenging spending your life with someone of the opposite gender can be.

To that end, I want to discuss the attitudinal notion of Simchas HaChaim and what it can and should contribute to one's life, both singe and married.

Somewhat loosely translated, Simchas HaChaim means the "Happiness of Life," though I would modify that to "the happiness inherent in life itself."

On a philosophical level, I would explain it as something akin to Joie de Vivre. It's a perspective on life wherein a person finds joy in anything and everything, in simply living, and in the simple as well as the more grandiose things in life.

Marriage, and life as a whole, can be very difficult at times. There is conflict, misunderstanding, unclear communication, mistakes, offenses committed, along with frustration and the occasional feelings of anger.

And despite all this, there is always something to be happy about. Whether it's because the weather is pleasant outside, you've got a roof over your head and a comfortable bed to sleep in, there's plenty of food on your table and in your fridge, you can't figure out what outfit to wear from your collection of clothing, or you physically feel good without illness or aches and pains.

I think that Simchas HaChaim means to be able to find these sources of brightness that lift you up and bring some cheer to your mind and soul.

Therefore, even if you've just had a big argument with your spouse, something you were looking forward to didn't pan out, or life took an unexpected and disappointing downturn (sudden or otherwise) - you might be rattled, but on the whole you can overcome the present difficulty by putting it into its compartment in your mind, and continue living.

Sure, everyone gets overwhelmed at times, especially when so many things have gone "wrong" and we feel trapped or stuck with nowhere and no one to turn to. We all have those moments where things kind of break down and we're at our lowest emotionally and psychologically. However, I tend to think that in most normal lives this occurs only on the rare occasion and not with any regularity. If someone feels like this the majority of the time, then I would hope and pray that he/she gets the professional help he/she needs.

Being able to handle the ups and downs of life, being able to find something to smile about despite everything else, is one of the main keys to being successful both in life, and in marriage. Without this, a person can become disheartened and begin to doubt him/herself, marriage, and life itself. That's when you need your spouse to help lift you up and out of the darkness. The ability to do that has a lot to do with the dynamics of communication - which is another important key to success in marriage, but that's a topic for its own post.

I very strongly urge all the readers to explore your own sense of Simchas HaChaim, to understand how your individual emotional and mental attitudes and states of being function, and to find that inner sense of happiness with life.

Happiness is not a goal, but rather the enjoyment of the ride that life presents us, wherever we may go.

Cultivating a sense of how we can recognize and summon that sense of internally motivated happiness is extremely important, and will provide a wellspring of inner strength to endure and grow from the often bumpy road of life.

May we all achieve an understanding of our personal Simchas HaChaim, and may that lead us all to happy lives and happy marriages.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Remembering Irena Sendler

In the sixth entry of his series explaining selected Kinot, Rabbi Moshe Taragin elaborates on the massacres that occurred in the spring of 1096 as depicted in Kinah #25 "Mi Yiten Roshi." He delves a bit into the historical background of those unfortunate mass murders, pointing out that there were gentiles sympathetic to Jews, who remained defiant against the brainwashed, philistine masses thirsty for blood. They did their best to resist decrees to hand over Jews and saved as many as they could, given the circumstances.

In a world where everything can appear calm, though seething hatred against Jews still exists in overt and clandestine ways, it is good to remind ourselves that the entire world isn't always out to get us. Even when popular opinion swings against the Jewish People, there are those righteous among the gentiles who will step forward and take our side, regardless of the risk to their own lives.

Irena Sendler was one such person.
Irena Sendler, circa 1944. From The Lowell Milken Center.
As a nurse and social working living in Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland, she endeavored to save as many Jewish lives as she could, utilizing her job and aiding the Polish Underground movement. At first, she and her assistants falsified over 3,000 documents to help Jewish families escape.

Later, she joined  ┼╗egota, the underground Polish Council to Aid Jews, the only organization of its kind in any occupied European country, where she continued her work, specializing in smuggling children out of the Warsaw Ghetto and became the head of the Zegota's children's division.

Sendler utilized her position in the Social Welfare Department to devise a stratagem to smuggle young boys and girls to freedom. Under the guise of performing inspections intended to prevent the spread of typhus, she and her co-workers hid children in ambulances and even parcel packages to sneak the children past Nazi inspection. Having succeeded, the were transferred to a number of orphanages, and the lists of their names kept hidden with the intent of reuniting the children with their parents after the war.

In 1943, Irena was found out, imprisoned, beaten, and sentenced to death by the Nazis. She was able to bribe her German captors en route to her execution, and survived the remainder of the war in hiding. Following the end of the war, she and her colleagues passed their lists of Jewish children to a colleague in the hopes of reuniting them with their parents. Alas, few of the 2,500 children saved were able to be returned to their families, most of whom perished during the war.

Irena's story was largely forgotten under the regime that controlled Poland following the war. Yad Vashem finally recognized her in 1965, and more recently, her story has been publicized by the Life in a Jar project.

While we are in the midst of contemplating the loss of the Beis Hamikdash, we can find some encouragement in the fact that there are those among the nations of the world who have supported us, and will continue to support us, as we make the final push for the ultimate redemption.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pinchas Was The Grandson Of Yisro?

This parsha-related dilemma has been bothering me for years. Rashi, citing Sotah 43A, writes in one of his first comments on last week's parsha that Pinchas was a grandson of Putiel, otherwise known as Yisro, the kohen Midian and father-in-law of Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Tribes scorned him: "Have you seen this one, whose mother's father [Jethro] fattened calves for idolatry!

As someone who is a stickler for stuff like continuity (lehavdil: woe be unto those who retcon older, established comics/books/movies/whatever for newer material), I have tried to figure out how this works out timeline-wise with Pinchas' age and yetzias Mitzraim.

We know that Pinchas wasn't annointed as a kohen like his father, uncles, and grandfather, because he was an already living grandson of Aharon, as we see in Shemos 6:25, which first introduces Pinchas and his lineage while Bnei Yisrael are still in Mitzraim:

 And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites according to their families.

I'm pretty sure the switcharoo which exchanged the first born sons (who were meant to be the kohanim) with Aharon's family occurred shortly after the Chet Ha'Egel. This incident with Bilam and Balak took place much further along, right before Bnei Yisrael were to enter Eretz Canaan.

So that rules out the possibility that Elazar married one of Yisro's daughters who he might have brought with him (along with Tzipora, Gershom and Eliezer) when he arrives at Bnei Yisrael's camp in the Sinai Desert. There is also no textual evidence of him bringing any other family with him.

When Aharon and his sons were annointed kohanim, by extension, future as-of-yet-unborn descendents would also become kohanim. Bummer for Pinchas who was already alive and thus missed out.

However, thanks to his heroic act of spearing Zimri and Cozbi, HaShem grants him the bris shalom, as well as kehunah.

Yisro, when we meet him in the Torah, lives in Midian, where Moshe marries Yisro's daughter, Tzipora, when he ends up spending time there after fleeing Mitzraim.

There is another possibility as to when and where this marriage took place - in Egypt itself.

Per Sanhendrin 106 A, Yisro, Iyov, and Bilam were advisers to Pharaoh at the time he was trying to figure out what to do about the "Jewish problem." Bilam said to throw the baby boys into the Nile, Iyov said nothing, and Yisro ran away.

Hence, it stands to reason that Yisro left some family behind in Egypt - though I have no idea who else besides this daughter that Elazar marries would have remained after he fled from Pharaoh - perhaps his original wife...?

Thus, it would seem that the most logical thing is that Elazar married a daughter of Yisro from his that time spent time in Egypt as one of Pharaoh's advisors.

This would make Elazar's wife a bit older than him. I'm not going to go into age differences here, but we know of several famous Tanach couples where the woman was much older than the man... like Moshe's own parents.

Incidentally, it's neat that both Moshe and his father-in-law fled from Pharaoh's wrath and ended up in Midian.

In conclusion, I think Elazar married a daughter of Yisro who was born in Egypt and left behind after her father fled Egypt.